Australia

Tanya Day inquest: Court hears police checks were 'inadequate'

Tanya Day passed away in December 2017 after being arrested for public drunkenness Source: Supplied

A Victoria Police officer told a triple-zero operator he checked on Aboriginal woman Tanya Day more often than he actually did while she was in custody.

A police officer meant to look after Aboriginal woman Tanya Day while she was in custody told a triple-zero operator he had checked on her every 20 minutes, including rousing her awake.

But CCTV showed nobody entered Ms Day's cell for four hours.

Leading Senior Constable Danny Wolters was the watch housekeeper when Ms Day, 55, was arrested and placed in a Castlemaine police cell for being drunk in public on 5 December in 2017.

The Yorta Yorta grandmother was in the cell for less than an hour when she fell and hit her forehead at 4.51pm. She died 17 days later from a brain haemorrhage caused by the fall.

Neither Sen Const Wolters nor his supervisor Sergeant Edwina Neale entered Ms Day's cell until 8.03pm when they noticed a bruise on her forehead and called an ambulance.

"We have got a female in custody here for drunk and she starts falling over inside the cell and she's got a lump on her head that we need to get checked out," Sen Const Wolters said in a triple-zero call, played to the inquest into Ms Day's death on Tuesday.

"We were doing observations on her at all times and getting verbal responses the whole time so every time we go in there to rouse her we can wake her."

Tanya Day died from a brain haemorrhage after falling and hitting her head while in custody.
Tanya Day died from a brain haemorrhage after falling and hitting her head while in custody.
AAP

Sen Const Wolters had checked on Ms Day at 4.50pm, leaving just seconds before the fatal fall.

CCTV footage of that check was played in court, showing Sen Const Wolters looking at Ms Day through a cell window for about six seconds before walking away.

"That's a completely inadequate check, what you've witnessed there?" Peter Morrissey SC, the lawyer representing the Day family, asked the supervising sergeant.

"It looks it, yes," Sgt Neale said.

"If you had seen that fall, you would've raced straight in there, wouldn't you?" Mr Morrissey asked.

"Yes."

Sgt Neale said she tasked Snr Const Wolters with checking on Ms Day every 20 minutes, either in person or on CCTV.

But he later told her said Ms Day would "get up and become agitated" when he did a physical check and suggested they be pushed out to 40 minutes. Sgt Neale agreed.

"That decision was criminally negligent, do you agree or disagree?" Mr Morrissey asked.

"I totally disagree," Sgt Neale replied.

Paramedic Lisa Harrup entered the cell at 8.25pm.

Sen Const Wolters told paramedics Ms Day rolled from the bench and hit her head on the concrete floor at about 7pm.

But CCTV footage showed Ms Day had been sleeping on the floor for at least 20 minutes by then.

Sen Const Wolters is expected to give evidence on Wednesday.

Coroner Caitlin English is examining whether racism contributed to Ms Day's death.

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